Crookston struggled with consistent playing, but still found themselves battling to force a fifth set against the Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal Titans. When it was all said and done, the Pirates lost 3-1, but came very close to an exciting comeback.

    Crookston struggled with consistent playing, but still found themselves battling to force a fifth set against the Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal Titans. When it was all said and done, the Pirates lost 3-1, but came very close to an exciting comeback.    

    All appeared to be well in the first set. Crookston lost a few points due to some service errors and faults, but still had a 15-12 lead.    

    Then the Titans began a run. Trailing 20-19, the Pirates appeared to have tied the game, but after the referees gathered, the point was awarded to the Titans. After that, the Titans scored the rest of the match’s points winning set one 25-19.   

    The second set was a back and forth battle. Each team was guilty of service errors and violations. The Titans began to pull away leading 21-16, but the Pirates continued to stay within striking distance.    

    A kill by Rachel Hefta and a Titans service error put the Pirates down 23-21, but that would be as close as they got. The Titans took a 2-0 set advantage winning 25-21.    

    “We just weren’t as scrappy as we needed to be,” Head Coach Ashley Stopa said. “We were down and ready, but they had three good hitters and we needed to change our blocking timing.”   

    By the third set, the Pirates had cleaned up most of their fundamental mistakes and the Titans began to commit a number of violations.    

    Neither team could put distance between the other. The Pirates led 16-15, but the Titans quickly grabbed the lead at 19-17.   

    Needing to win the set to stay alive, Crookston roared back to take a 20-19 lead on a Hefta ace and a Titans service error later put the Pirates ahead 21-20.   

    The Titans took a 24-23 lead and Crookston was facing a match point. The Titans fired a spike which was returned by the Pirates and somehow found the floor inside the line with no one touching it on the other side. Crookston later won the set 27-25 to keep their hopes of a comeback alive.    

    Stopa spoke on the turnaround her team experienced to win the third set.   

    “We moved a few people around so we could find some better matchups on the net,” Stopa said. “Our blockers really sped up and adjusted really well.”   

    The fourth set offered more drama in the form of trading blows. With the set tied 11-11, Katelyn Wagner made big offensive plays tallying three kills in the next eight points. Hefta and Teagan Carlstrom each recorded an ace in this run to keep the Pirates in it and tie the game at 15-15.    

    But the Titans went on an 8-2 run to increase the lead to 22-17. The Pirates were facing another match point trailing 24-21 and needing three straight points to keep the game going. They did exactly that tying the game at 24-24.    

    Down 25-24 and facing another match point, the Titans committed a service error. After the error, the Titans scored two quick points to finally put away Crookston 27-25 and take the match 3-1.    

    In the stats, Teagan Carlstrom led the defense with 19 digs. Katelyn Wagner totaled nine kills and Kylie Solheim provided consistent play setting the Pirates up for points with 16 assists.   

    “Katelyn Wagner all the way around did an amazing job at attacking the court on the other side,” Stopa said. “Kylie Solheim’s serving really kept us in there and her set selection was pretty fantastic.”   

    The loss served as Crookston’s first home defeat. The Pirates now at 3-3 will attempt to get back above .500 against Thief River Falls on the road on September 12. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.